When it comes to managing one’s diet and nutrition, many individuals with diabetes express feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or even isolated. Too often, finding recipes that are both healthy and tasty can be a full-time job. Even worse, it can feel lonely when eating out with friends or at holiday times with family, when everyone else is celebrating but your diabetes limits the foods you can enjoy.
In light of this, you won’t be surprised that one of the most frequently asked questions diabetics ask is “What am I allowed to eat?” The answer is both simple and complicated. There have been over 600 research studies over the last half-decade looking into the question of which nutrition plan is most effective for patients with diabetes. Fortunately, the American Diabetes Association has looked evaluated all of these studies and boiled down the important points into the 2019 Consensus Report. Let’s explore how this information can help those with diabetes better manage their own diet and nutrition, living both healthily and happily.
Know the Goals of Your Diabetes Diet
Managing your diet while living with diabetes can feel like climbing a mountain. As such, it is important to know what goals you are trying to achieve so that you can mark your progress along the way and not grow tired or quit the journey before reaching the summit. There are at least three main goals to consider in a diet and nutrition plan.
- Achieving your target blood glucose levels.
- Achieving and keeping a healthy weight.
- Optimizing cardiovascular health with blood pressure control and cholesterol levels.
Your doctor will outline your own target numbers for these areas. If you are still working toward one of these goals, it is important not to lose sight of the big picture, and to remind yourself that any movement in the right direction is a movement toward a healthier life, no matter how slow the progress may seem.
What am I allowed to eat?
So what do all the 600 research studies say that I am supposed to eat? Well, not surprisingly, the advice can be boiled down to a few pieces of advice.
- It’s still important to eat your (non-starchy) vegetables. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Salad greens, Cucumber, Eggplant, Mushrooms, etc…you guessed it. Nothing has changed here. These foods are still very healthy and important to consume in high quantities. Check out this full list here and remember, you don’t have to eat something you don’t like. Find those vegetables that you enjoy and focus your time and attention on making the best recipes for those particular foods.
- Avoid added sugars. Make your calories count, don’t waste them on the cheap calories of added sugar. It’s easy to let added sugars get out of hand with beverages such as soda, coffee, or tea. Just remember the old adage “Eat your calories, don’t drink them!”
- Choose whole foods over highly processed foods when possible. While processed foods are often more convenient, there is a significant health risk in consistently choosing processed foods over whole, natural foods. The manufacturing process tends to increase the amount of sugar, fat, and empty calories of a given food as compared to its natural counterpart.
Finding a Tasty Recipe
Once you’ve decided to pick up some vegetables from the local market and avoid the added sugars, the next and hardest step is to find recipes you enjoy. Check out some of these sites for great Diabetic Recipes.
All Recipes (allrecipes.com)
This is one of our favorites due to the peer review rating system. Just like you may turn to Yelp or TripAdvisor for reviews when choosing a restaurant, ‘peer review’ is extremely important when selecting recipes. Keep an eye out for the highly-rated recipes with a high number of reviews. There is strength in numbers!
Taste of Home (Tasteofhome.com)
Lots of great ideas, but check out the 25 Chocolate recipes you won’t believe are diabetic friendly.
If you’re looking for a placeholder on the coffee table or just prefer the paper copy, check out some of these Cookbooks available for purchase from the American Diabetes Association.
Navigating a Diabetes Nutrition Plan Together
If you’re just been recently diagnosed with diabetes, or if you’ve managed diabetes some time but are struggling to find the right diet, it’s important to remember that you are not alone in managing your diet and nutrition. Both your doctor and a registered dietician can be available to help develop the appropriate plan for your individual needs, and these sessions are covered under almost all insurance plans. Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to family members, friends, and Diabetes support groups, all of whom may help with ideas and provider encouragement on your journey.
Living with diabetes is challenging, but with these resources, consider taking a new look and a fresh approach to your diet and nutrition plan, all toward living a healthier and happier life. Bon appetit!
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